Friday, July 10, 2009

His Majesty's Dragon

Dragons have been a part of the fantasy genre since its inception. In which case it would not be hard to believe that nothing truly original could be done with them. Naomi Novik dramatically proves that is not the case in her debut His Majesty's Dragon.

The story is set during the Napoleonic wars in an alternate history earth where dragons exist and have been incorporated as something of an air force in the armed forces. William Laurence, the protagonist and captain of a ship in the British navy, is thrust into a difficult position when it turns out there is a dragon egg on a captured French vessel.Normally this would be a godsend but the egg is due to hatch and they are still weeks away from land. To ensure the dragon doesn’t turn feral Laurence unwittingly harnesses him upon his hatching. He is shocked when the dragon turns out to be exceedingly intelligent and speaks to him in perfect English. Laurence names him Temeraire, appropriately after two ships.

The aviators are very different to the rest of society who know very little about dragons. A good chunk of the novel deals with both Laurence and Temeraire’s integration into the aviators. Novik does a particularly good job in creating a genuine 18th century English feel through Laurence’s thoughts and expectations. It is obvious a lot of period research has gone into this and it really shows. I particularly enjoyed Laurence’s reactions to practices within the aviators that defied the days conventions, it always felt genuine.

One criticism that could be leveled is the lack of action. I don’t really feel this was much of issue though, as it is obvious character development and interaction was the crux of this novel. Plus there was a real frantic atmosphere to the action sequences that there were, especially the explosive finale, which could only have been achieved this way. Still it will certainly be interesting to see if Novick changes tact in subsequent novels.

In sum if your looking for something a little bit different with a flagrant atmosphere and strong character development give Her Majesty’s Dragon a try you won’t be disappointed.8.5/10

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